Following is the speech by the Commissioner of Correctional Services, Mr Kwok Leung-ming, at the department's 2009 year-end review today (January 28):
Welcome to the CSD's annual press conference, and thank you for supporting the work of our department.
Today, I would like to focus on some of the improvements that we have made to our facilities and services over the past year, and touch on some of the efforts we will make in the future in order to build a safer, more inclusive society in Hong Kong.
The Voting by Imprisoned Persons Ordinance
The right to vote is a fundamental aspect of Hong Kong society, and in 2009, great strides were made to allow prisoners to fully exercise this right. The Voting by Imprisoned Persons Ordinance came into effect in October 2009. The new law establishes a clear legal framework for prisoners to register as electors, becoming "electors in custody", and then vote in public elections.
We have spent a lot of time and effort with concerned bureaux and departments to ensure that all necessary arrangements are in place to implement this new law. I am also glad to note that special arrangements to facilitate voting by remanded persons in the District Council by-elections in March, June and September 2009 have been satisfactory to all parties concerned.
Department Response to Other New Ordinances
The CSD has responded to other new ordinances enacted by the Government in a similarly proactive manner. In accordance with the Race Discrimination Ordinance, we have introduced appropriate measures to ensure that prisoners receive no disparity in treatment and no discrimination on grounds of race and nationality. These measures included the publication of an information booklet for prisoners and remands, translated into some 20 different languages, and relevant training courses for staff.
The Disability Discrimination Ordinance offers similar protection for people with disabilities. Accordingly, improvements have been made in our facilities and services for such prisoners. Meanwhile, the CSD has initiated smoking-control measures in line with the Smoking (Public Health) Ordinance, even though correctional institutions are technically exempted from the limitations on smoking under that ordinance.
We have made good progress to alleviate overcrowding and provide new and improved facilities and services for the purpose of aiding the rehabilitation of prisoners. In May 2009, the relocation of the Lai Chi Rehabilitation Centre at Tai Tam Gap was successfully completed, relieving overcrowding in our male rehabilitation centre. The next important milestone will be the completion of the new Lo Wu Correctional Complex later this year, which will provide significant and long awaited relief to our overcrowded female institutions.
Furthermore, the launch of the new Industries & Vocational Training (I&VT) Section in February 2009 has heralded a new era of our rehabilitation services. The I&VT Section, now part of the Rehabilitation Division, provides gainful industrial work to prisoners as well as developing and supervising vocational training. We aim to provide prisoners with a diversified set of skills that will strengthen their employability and self-reliance upon their release.
We continue to maintain close relations with other penal authorities in the region, sharing ideas and furthering the mutual development of quality prison operations. A seminar on the rehabilitation of sex offenders, jointly organised by the CSD and Caritas-Hong Kong, was held in February 2009. Delegates from government departments and non-government organisations in Singapore, Malaysia, Beijing, Guangdong, Guizhou, Macau and Hong Kong joined the event. Useful experiences and views were exchanged among the participants on how best to improve the rehabilitation and management of sex offenders.
Charity and Community Service
The CSD is fully committed to providing care and support to our staff members, and to the wider community. We are pleased to note that the recommendations of the grade structure review for disciplined services grades were implemented in December 2009, a fitting reward for the hard work and dedication of our staff. We are also very proud to receive the "Caring Organisation Logo" from the Hong Kong Council of Social Service for the fourth year running. This award recognises the valuable contribution that CSD staff make to Hong Kong society, both in our day-to-day official duties and in the wide range of off-duty charitable activities and community service work.
Our staff members work tirelessly to serve the community, and their hard work and determination have allowed the CSD to face up to new challenges and achieve our operational goals throughout 2009. I have no doubt that this trend will continue into 2010, as I am confident that all members of the department will continue to refine and improve our services.
On a final note, I would like to wish you all a happy and prosperous Year of the Tiger, which is just around the corner.
Ends/Thursday, January 28, 2010
Issued at HKT 15:43